Archive for January, 2009

If you are ever in need of a light-hearted laugh, look no further than you’re cartoon shelf.

Open Season 2 picks up after the animals rid the forest of the hunters. Having fallen in love with Giselle (Jane Krakowski), Elliot (Joel McHale) is on his way to the alter when Mr. Weenie (Cody Cameron) is kidnapped. The troop drops everything to rescue their k-9 friend who is held captive by a group of pampered pets determined to re-civilize Mr. Weenie. Elliot, Boog (Mike Epps), McSquizzy (Billy Connolly) and the rest of the woodland creatures set out on a rescue mission that takes them into the world of pets and up against a hostile toy poodle named Fifi (Crispin Glover).

Most of the animals resemble goofy versions of their real-life counterparts, which adds to the amusement. Even though the main voice actors (Ashton Kutcher and Martin Lawrence) did not return, their replacements are perfectly suited to the characters. However, the show is frequently stolen by Connolly’s Scottish squirrel and Cameron’s German dachshund. Glover’s poodle is also very funny.

The comedy is uncomplicated but consistent. And even though some of the jokes follow from the first instalment, the film is mostly a stand-alone narrative.

The DVD is packed with fun games, including a game of fetch with Mr. Weenie and a doggie dress-up activity. Viewers are also shown how to draw Boog, Elliot and Fifi by one of the artists. In addition, there are three deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with the voice cast. If that’s not enough, the complementary website contains three more games, downloads and printable activities.

In case you need a convenient catch-up or refresher before watching Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Underworld and Underworld: Evolution have been released as a double feature.

In the first chapter, Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a death dealer in a war between vampires and lycans that has raged for centuries. Her duty is to eradicate the Earth of lycans, but while shadowing the human Michael (Scott Speedman), a lycan target, Selene uncovers a plot that could mean the end of the vampire race. Lucian (Michael Sheen), a lycan thought to be long dead, has discovered the key to mixing werewolf and vampire DNA, which produces a powerful hybrid. As her feelings for Michael deepen, Selene must decide to who she can trust.

In the sequel, the longstanding war takes a backseat to the release of the most vicious lycan to ever walk the Earth. Selene (Beckinsale) and the transformed Michael (Speedman) must stop the vampire-turned-hybrid Marcus from changing and releasing his lycan-brother William from a prison that has protected everyone for centuries.

As is often the case, the sequel is inferior to the original but both are worth the time. The first instalment is less bogged down by history and takes place in the present, which includes lots of action and conflict. The second has a lot of flashbacks, which while interesting slows down the pace somewhat, and doesn’t feel as well thought out.

The Underworld DVD is the unrated, extended cut of the film and includes commentary with director Les Wiseman, Beckinsale and Speedman; outtakes; and “Fang vs. Fiction,” a 45-minute featurette exploring the mythology of vampires and werewolves.

The Underworld: Evolution DVD’s special features consist of audio commentary from director Wiseman, production designer Patrick Tatopoulos, stunt coordinator Brad Martin, and editor Nicolas De Toth; six featurettes: “Bloodlines: From Script to Screen,” “The Hybrid Theory,” “Making Monsters Roar,” “The War Rages On,” “Building a Saga,” and “Music and Mayhem;” and a music video by Atreyu.

Even though many proposed race was no longer an issue in North America, the recent presidential election proved otherwise. Lakeview Terrace displays racism from a perspective not often seen in cinema.

Chris (Patrick Wilson) and Lisa (Kerry Washington) just bought their first home together. It has a pool, a beautiful view of the hills and the community appears to be tranquil. However, their peace is rattled the very first night by an inconsiderate neighbour. Chris and Lisa attempt to befriend Abel (Samuel L. Jackson) but he seems to have an unwavering hatred for their relationship – Chris is white and Lisa is black. Abel begins to use his status as a police officer to intimidate the couple, eventually going to extreme measures to force them out of their own home.

To say this movie is intense would almost be an understatement. The tension builds gradually over the entire narrative. It doesn’t stop once it reaches the boiling point but rather erupts into an uncontrollable calamity.

Jackson is incredibly effective in this role, often conveying the menace of his character through a single look. The juxtaposition of his outward appearance (casual, laidback) and dangerous core is also fascinating. There is never a moment of relaxation as the audience is always aware of the threat Abel represents.

Chris’ frustration with Abel is equally real. Wilson communicates so much through his eyes and facial expressions. At first he is effectively subtle but as their antagonism grows, Wilson’s aggravation becomes more apparent as well.

A significant detail to note is Lake View Terrace is the name of the Los Angeles neighbourhood in which Rodney King was pulled over and beaten in 1991.

The DVD special features includes audio commentary with director Neil LaBute and Washington, which provides the occasional insight but does not elaborate on certain elements that may have proved interesting. There are eight deleted scenes with optional commentary, none of which are really missed, and “Welcome to Lakeview Terrace,” a 20-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

Many agree Brits do dark comedy well. But they should also know Canadians do dark comedy with a twist very well.

Ollie (Jay Baruchel) and Jackie (Sergio Di Zio) didn’t really know their father, but they felt obligated to attend his funeral. So it was quite a shock when the old man left the family business to Ollie. He didn’t know anything about funeral homes or even like being near dead bodies; but he would give it a shot. However, a funeral home in a town where no one dies is not very lucrative. Then again, when your mortician (Rose Byrne) is also the coroner, anything can look like an accident.

It sounds a little twisted because it is; but that’s what makes it so funny. As town’s people meet their bizarre ends, you can’t help but giggle. And as Ollie becomes more accustomed to his new role, it becomes clearer the story will end in disaster for someone.

Baruchel and Byrne are great. He has the awkward, nervous Ollie down pat and allows the transition to confident schemer to occur subtly. Meanwhile, Byrne’s Rebecca always seems a little off but you can never be too sure of how far she will go until it’s too late. They are supported by some terrific actors, including Nigel Bennett and Canadian Graham Greene. The corpses also deserve an honourable mention as they are real people playing dead.

The movie is only 90-minutes but its progression is steady and logical, even if strange. Also, if you were ever curious of the step-by-step of a mortician’s methods, this picture can be satisfying in that respect as well.

The DVD special features consist of an audio commentary by director Chaz Thorne and Baruchel, which provides amusing insights of filming in Nova Scotia, and a behind-the –scenes featurette.

So did we need another movie about a washed-up rocker leading a group of adolescents to fame and fortune? Probably not, but at least it’s funny.

Robert ‘Fish’ Fishman (Rainn Wilson) was the drummer in a metal band that was about to make it big. Then he was fired. For the next 20 years, Fish wondered what could have been. When his nephew (Josh Gad) needs a drummer for his high school band, Fish jumps at the opportunity to pick up the sticks again. His shenanigans then take the teens to the top. Fish tries to relive his rock star days while the band tours the country, forcing the guitarist’s (Teddy Geiger) mom (Christina Applegate) to join the tour as a supervisor. When disagreements arise, the band must pull together or watch their dreams go up in flames.

Wilson climbed the fame ladder with his recurring role on The Office. So when The Rocker hit theatres, the audience was waiting and ready. The story was inspired by former-Beatles drummer Pete Best, who was replaced by Ringo Starr just before the group exploded onto the charts. Best even has a cameo in the film, but most of it was wasted on the cutting room floor and can only be seen in the deleted scenes section.

This is a comedy that follows on the heels of recent Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly pictures, relying on physical humour and some good lines. Most of the comedy is provided by Wilson, although the rest of the cast, particularly Gad, occasionally pitches in. It’s also becoming apparent Will Arnett can be found in some capacity in most oddball flicks. Of course some of the credibility of the film goes out the window, since Fish would never really get the girl.

The two-disc “Born to Rock” edition DVD is packed with special features, as well as a digital copy of the film. There two audio commentary tracks: the first is with director Peter Cattaneo and Wilson, and the other is with actors Gad, Geiger, Emma Stone and Jason Sudeikis. There are 10 deleted scenes, which unnecessarily includes a mind-numbing section with the music video director and 105 second aerial shot of a tour bus. There are various VH1-style featurettes and four hilarious podcasts featuring Wilson and guitarist Slash. On a more informative front, “The Music of The Rocker” talks about the catchy original soundtrack.

Woody Allen has made a career of exploring relationships in film. Here, he once again delves into the world of adultery, overwhelming (and underwhelming) passion, and the threesome.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best friends but their views on love are in complete opposition. Vicky is engaged to a man who is stable and trusting; Cristina engages in whirlwind relationships looking for something she has yet to find. Shortly after the pair’s arrival for a summer in Spain, Cristina catches the eye of a handsome Spanish artist (Javier Bardem). Within hours, the three are on his plane with the predisposition he will sleep with one or both of them before the weekend is over. What follows is several torrid love affairs, both from afar and up-close.

This is not one of Allen’s best works but as is the norm, he gets wonderful actors to turn in magnificent performances. As so much of an Allen picture is based in dialogue, the cast must be very capable speakers. And this time it’s not only the cast leading the story with their words, but also a narrator. The voice is entirely expository; it takes the story from one scene to the next, revealing inner emotions and thoughts along the way. The experience is much like watching a stage play without the stage.

Bardem’s rapport with Penelope Cruz, who portrays his ex-wife, is incredibly authentic. The extreme passions they express for one another are fiery. And although very little of what we see is physical, it dwarfs the connection Juan Antonio has with Cristina. Johansson is credible but her performance is not award- worthy despite the nominations. Likewise, Hall’s fear, anxiety and desire are very believable.

The Spanish architecture, coast and countryside are their own characters, often stealing the audience’s attention. If you find yourself not loving Vicky or Cristina, you will surely fall in love with Barcelona.

As is also the usual with an Allen release, there are no DVD bonus features to review.

If a film is released and the central characters are a family of cops, it’s not surprising to discover the family is Irish. Pride and Glory is that movie. The title refers to the reason these guys joined the force, although for some it wasn’t enough.

Francis Jr. a.k.a. Franny (Noah Emmerich) is a commanding officer and four of his men were just killed in a raid gone terribly wrong. They know who’s responsible but not who tipped him off. Ray (Ed Norton), Franny’s younger brother, has been assigned to the team investigating the murders but what he uncovers doesn’t look good for his brother or their brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell).

The film follows the patterns of a traditional cop drama, which means intense moments, strong emotions, a mystery that leads back to the department, and brutal violence. It doesn’t quite live up to the bar set by 2006’s The Departed but it definitely holds its own.

The performances from Norton, Farrell, Emmerich and Jon Voight, who plays their former police chief father, are terrific as the characters struggle with the morality of their actions, where their loyalties lie, and which path to take in the end. Norton in particular is top notch in this picture. Moreover, many of the extras are actual gang members to give the film some authenticity.

The final sequences are a little too “just desserts” even for the genre but it’s definitely worth checking out.

The DVD has one bonus feature described on the back cover as a “comprehensive documentary.” And that it is. “Source of Pride: the Making of Pride and Glory” runs just over an hour. It goes behind-the-scenes seven weeks before shooting, showing location scouts and colourful auditions, and follows the production to the wrap, documenting difficulties between Norton and director Gavin O’Connor.